One pandemic financial lifeline continues, another ends


U.S. government extends halt on student loan payments, concludes temporary federal unemployment benefits

Aug. 28, 2021 — On Aug. 6, the Biden Harris Administration announced an extended moratorium on federal student loan payments, which was scheduled to expire at the end of September. Now that has been moved to Jan. 31, 2022. 

About one in six adults and one in three young adults have students loans, U.S. President Joe Biden stated in a press release.

“The pause has been a critical lifeline so they don’t have to choose between paying for basic necessities or their student loan during the pandemic that upended their lives,” he said.

In total, around 44 million Americans owe more than $1.71 trillion in student loan debt, according to the 2021 Student Loan Hero report. 

The federal administration’s decision on the extension was placed to offer the U.S. Department of Education and borrowers spare time to prioritize other expenses to reduce loan defaults, with an additional approach to “economic recovery,” the president added. 

According to Federal Student Aid, an office of the U.S. Department of Education, the extension entails several relief measures for eligible loans. The first being the suspension of loan payments with a 0% interest rate and discontinuation of collections on defaulted loans, free of charge. This will allow student loan borrowers to skip payments until they can meet afford to until Jan. 31, 2022. People can learn more about what loans are eligible for the 0% loan interest through studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus. 

Some ways to avoid “pandemic grants” and “Biden loan forgiveness” scams, the Department of Education recommends all students check with their school to find out if the “offer is legit.” To learn more on how to avoid scams, visit studentaid.gov/resources/scams.  

As the pandemic continues, student loan payments aren’t the only concern up in the air.  

According to the State of Oregon Employment Department (OED), $10.6 billion in benefits have been paid to Oregonians from March 15, 2020, to Aug. 17, 2021, and Oregon’s unemployment rate was recorded at 5.2% in June. 

The OED offers nine benefits and, of the $10.6 billion allocated, $3.3 billion of the benefits were distributed towards the CARES ACT, $2.7 billion for Regular Unemployment Insurance (UI), and $1.3 billion issued for the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. As for the rest of the benefits, each category allocated over $100 million, except for the Disaster Unemployment Assistance, which served a fraction of Oregonians $767,800. 

For Regular UI, a total of 727,200 Oregonians have applied, and 504,200 of them were paid during the stated period. For the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, the OED received a total of 335,600 claims, and 331, 800 of them have been entered into the unemployment system. In addition, 95,800 Oregonians were paid Regular benefits and 113,700 people have benefitted from pandemic unemployment.

However, beginning Sept. 4, temporary federal unemployment benefit programs related to the pandemic will end.

" The expiring benefit programs are Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, and the Mixed Earner Unemployment Compensation program,” according to the OED. 

Other temporary federal unemployment benefits included the Continued Assistance Act, which allowed for 11 extra weeks of Pandemic Unemployment Assistance benefits. During that time, the OED was guided by the U.S. Department of Labor that “everyone” was entitled to the same 11-week additional benefits, which reached people after Dec. 27, 2020. 

Another temporary federal unemployment benefit was the American Rescue Plan Act. This was a benefits package that allowed for benefit extensions of $300 extra to continue through Sept. 4, which will soon end. 

With the temporary benefits ending, Oregon’s waiting week will apply again to unemployment insurance benefits starting Sept. 5. 

“We know unemployment benefits are a critical safety net and people rely on these funds to provide for their families and stay in their homes. With temporary federal benefits ending Sept. 4 and COVID-19 on the rise, this is a stressful time for many throughout the country,” said David Gerstenfeld, acting director of the Oregon Employment Department. “We want to make sure people have the information they need when we return to regular unemployment insurance (UI) benefit rules, including the waiting week.”

For more information:

• on unemployment resources, visit unemployment.oregon.gov/americanrescueplan. 

• about loan extensions, visit studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus. 

• on federal benefits, visit unemployment.oregon.gov/resources. 

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